Let’s imagine for a moment that Herbie Mann didn’t release soul jazz music, but instead when to Cambridge and formed a folk psych group with Mick Farren. Together they released a slew of albums from the late 1960s – early 1970s that were full of whimsical lyrics, catchy flute riffs, stories from folklore, killer melodies all with a poppy vibe. After a few years Mann went off to release instrumental soul albums and Farren proto punk. But we don’t have to have to imagine anymore as Hill have released such an album. ‘Into Outta this World’ is filled with flute lines that would make Mann smile.
The standout track is the album closer ‘The Tale of the Pixie and the Comet’. Opening with a barrage of searing flute, ad-hoc melodies kick in before the story of a pixie who is stranded on a, well, comet. Throughout its 15-minute duration gentle peaks arise, consisting of recurring motifs and killer solos. When the band are in full swing, which happens throughout ‘The Pixies and the Comet’, it feels like a musical version of The Little Prince or a Moomin’s story that has been made of fuzzy felts, as there is a childlike glee to the proceedings, but this is underpinned by some serious playing and song writing.
‘Into Outta this World’ only consists of three songs; it clocks in at 40 minutes. Given a track to minutes ratio you’d be forgiven for thinking there might be some slack, or trimming to be done, but the album is tight. Yes, there are moments when you’d like Hill to get to the point a bit quicker, but this is what makes the album such a delight. Hill take their time. They don’t rush to get their point across. At times the music cold be considered tedious as it feels Hill are playing for playing’s sake, rather than for the song, but it is also charming in a way that most music isn’t today. An example of this is around the seven-minute mark on ‘The Tale of the Pixie and the Comet’ there is a meandering solo. From when it starts to when it ends it serves only to be a solo. Once it ends the song switches back to how it was before it started. It could easily have been trimmed, or removed, and the song might have benefitted from it, but it is one of the best parts not just of the song, but of the album and its inclusion is a nod to another time when intricate melodies interwoven with delicate stories were like a badge of honour.
What Into Outta this World shows, is that there are still bands out there, existing in the pub backrooms, that want to try something different. Using rich musical palates to tell fascinating stories with clever time signatures and wonky melodies. Throughout the album, it would have been easy for Hill to get cold feet and write a collection of conventional folk songs with psych tinges, but they stick to their guns and deliver a collection of songs that are rich in the heritage of their musical heroes, whilst never deviating from the stories they have created. Which, in places, is definitely out of this world and into another.